ESPN HoopGurlz: Flight Outlasts Boo for Nike Title
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- The Tennessee Flight had as solid of a summer as almost any program at the Nike Nationals tournament.
The Flight's Silver team didn't win any tournament titles, but the squad played tough competition all summer, flying under the radar as other teams took the spotlight. Thursday, it became the Flight's time to shine.
Behind 17 points from 2009 guard Jasmine James, the Flight defeated Boo Williams Elite, 60-57, to take the Nike Nationals' Gold Bracket crown.
"This was our goal," coach Tom Insell said. "We didn't worry about (U.S. Junior Nationals), we didn't worry about any tournament this year but this tournament. Everybody else worries about winning tournaments, we worry about winning a national title."
It looked almost easy at times, as the Flight -- which lost to Boo Williams Friday in Washington D.C., then again here Monday in pool play – had a 10-point halftime lead. A run to open the second half put Boo Williams back in the game until 2010 guard Valencia McFarland spurred a run that opened up a six-point advantage.
"We were underdog-ing it," said Jasmine Hassell, who added 11 points. "It feels good to come out on top, as a team, when you're the underdog."
Daniell Jackson led Boo Williams with 17 points, while Ta'Shauna Rodgers, who averaged nearly 20 points per game during the tournament, added 12.
In the Silver Bracket, the Georgia Metros claimed the crown with a 57-48 win against the Illinois Hustle. Elan Brown, a 6-1 senior-to-be from Atlanta, led the Metros with 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists as nine players scored for Georgia. Kayla Lewis, a 2010 forward, added 10 points, while Morgan Toles and Tessah Holt each had four points and four assists.
Adrienne Godbold, a 2009 post from Chicago, scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Hustle, who were down by two points at halftime. Illinois kept it close early in the second half before the Metros pulled away. Trisha Liston, a 6-1 2010 player, added 13 points for the Hustle, while 2009 center Kelsey Smith scored 11.
The Flight program is no stranger to the Nike Nationals Gold bracket. In 2006, the Flight lost to the Georgia Metros on a last-second shot by Maya Moore, who starred last season as a freshman at Connecticut. A year ago, Tennessee entered the tournament as the favorite but Florida's Essence program left with the title.
"To get here again is great, but this time we didn't want to go away second," said Insell, who also found out this month that he is a father-to-be. "My starting point guard, Kortni Jones, was here when Maya Moore hit that shot to beat us. She's had that feeling and she told the kids we don't want that feeling."
The Flight will be the fourth team -- joining 2005 winner The Family, the Metros and Essence -- with a championship banner hung in the Riverside Park Activities Center next year.
"We just all brought it out," said McFarland, who finished with 11 points. "We just laid it down and played our hardest."
The Flight shot 53.5 percent from the floor, while Boo Williams shot 34.4 percent, including hitting just five three's.
George Porcha, an assistant with the Boo Williams program, coached the team Wednesday and Thursday after Williams left to coach the boys' program in another tournament.
In Thursday morning's Gold Bracket semifinals, Boo Williams advanced after a 50-47 win against West Coast Premier, while the Flight beat Cy-Fair, 54-50, for its spot in the title game.
On the Silver Bracket side, Illinois Hustle beat the New York Silver Bullets, 62-51, while the Georgia Metros beat the Cal Storm, 64-62.
Tennessee Flight Silver 60, Boo Williams Elite 57 FLIGHT: Jasmine James 17, Jasmine Hassell 11, Valencia McFarland 11, Faith Dupree 10, Kayla Christopher 5, Dymon Raynor 4, Lakeisha Crouch 2, Kortni Jones, Ashley Jones, Laquinta Jefferson. BOO WILLIAMS: Daniell Jackson 17, Ta'Shauna Rodgers 12, Asya Bussie 8, Elizabeth Williams 7, Alyssa Bennett 6, Rahneek Saunders 5, Simone Egwu 2, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, Amber Easter, Jazmin Pitts, Araira Franklin. Halftime score: Flight 31, Boo Williams 21.
Georgia Metros 57, Illinois Hustle 48 HUSTLE: Adrienne Godbold 20, Trisha Liston 13, Kelsey Smith 11, Taylor Whitley 4, Lydia Baurer, Serefina Nuzzo, Kristin Judson, Brianna Ranger, Jackie Rieger. METROS: Elan Brown 14, Kayla Lewis 10, Tiffany Clarke 7, Porschia Handley 6, Shay Lewis 5, Telia McCall 5, Morgan Toles 4, Tessah Holt 4, Khaalidah Miller 2, Kajuanna Rivers, Teshia Griswold. Halftime score: Metros 26, Hustle 24.
Mindi Rice is a staff writer for ESPN HoopGurlz. She previously was an award-winning sportswriter at the Tacoma News Tribune and a barista at Starbucks, and grew up in Seattle, where she attended Roosevelt High School before graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.